Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Christmas menorah

Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly points to this article, from last year, about the role of menorahs in the public square. Some Jewish organizations oppose them, others, like Chabad, relentlessly promote them.

Many Christian groups support Chabad’s efforts to reclothe the naked public square, embracing the Jewish symbol because pluralism calls for a multiplicity of symbols. As Marc Stern of the American Jewish Congress, who opposes Chabad’s campaign, wrote back in 1987, "the menorah on public lands clears the path for the creche and the Cross."

Why not? Is religious freedom best promoted by a robust public pluralism or by a crabbed secularism intent on policing public expressions of religiosity? There will surely be a little conflict in the former case, but it could well produce understanding. In the latter case, mutual understanding and accommodation are foreclosed by a paternalistic effort to avoid conflict altogether.

Update: Here’s some evidence of the connection between the menorah and "the creche and the Cross."

Upate #2: You can read the Chabad case for robust pluralism here.

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